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Flying with children

Travelstart asked me to share some tips with them on flying with children. My friends, all I really want to tell you is what NOT to do by telling you a story of what happened to us the last time we flew with the boys. There is a big reason why this was the last time. We actually got those tickets via a Travelstart search, so check their deals on cheap Flights to Cape Town

Three years ago, we flew to Durban on Christmas Day because the flights were so much cheaper. The boys had received toy swords for Christmas (yay) well actually all their gifts included swords, shields, superhero costumes, water guns and erm… handcuffs. Metal ones. Obviously, those were left behind. On the plastic swords, I was just like… “maybe I should just call the airport and check if they can bring them on the flight…” like a good and organized mother, taking all the necessary precautions *pats self on back* It went something like…

Me: Hello Cape Town International Airport?

ASCA: Yes

Me: Is this Airports Company South Africa?

ASCA: Yes (doesn’t like being at work on Christmas Day)

Me: My sons have these erm, swords. You know those cheap, plastic, kiddies swords?

ASCA: Yes ma’am (probably doesn’t though)

Me: They’re not like, dangerous. I was wondering if the kids are allowed to take them like, on the plane. Just as carry-on? I mean carry-on is probably better. Is that fine? You know those plastic swords? Totally not dangerous

ASCA: They’re not metal?

Me: No-no, they’re plastic. Pretend. Like, for playing

ASCA: Those are 100% fine, they can bring them as carry-on. Yes that’s fine, as long as they’re not metal

Me: You’re really sure?

ASCA: Yes

Me: Oh good, I mean – they just got them today and they’re so excited about them… you know how kids love swords

ASCA: Was there anything else ma’am?

Me: Nope! Thanks so much for assisting! And HEY – Merry Christmas! :))))

ASCA: *click*

So off we headed. Okay no well, wait… They also had these plastic water guns. They’re so cool, you can add a balloon to the end of the (rifle shaped) gun and then you pump water into it. So actually not a gun, a pump!  They’re plastic and I was in charge of packing, so I was like “no man this is fine… it’s plastic, won’t even show up in the detectors… totally cool… I’ll just put them in.” And then the boys each had a backpack of toys and colouring books to entertain them on the plane ride. Check. Best mother ever. All sorted.

Well.

We got to the check-in counters to get our boarding passes. Load the bags. And the check-in lady (CIL) was like

CIL: Where are you flying to?

Me: Durban! And hey! Merry Christmas!! :))))

CIL: The 13:30 flight? (I don’t think she was of religion that celebrates Christmas) (at least not the sort of Christmas where you buy weapons for your children as gifts) (why did I do that again?)

Me: Yes

CIL: Bags please ma’am

Me: Graeme! (I mean really as if I could lift that bag. We’d only packed two bags – a communal one for him and I and a joint one for the kids. Because I’m smart!)

CIL: This bag is 27kg ma’am (HATES me)

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Me: That’s nice

CIL: You’re only allowed 23kg per bag, per person

Me: Yes, but you see – my husband and I put both our things in ONE bag. So like technically, the bag is 19kg UNDERweight.

CIL: No ma’am

Graeme: It’s fine, what do we do now? How much is the charge per kg?

Me: NO! I mean, this is ridiculous. We have an allowance of 46kg between us. That doesn’t make sense.

CIL: You could move some of your things to another bag so that this one is at 23kg

Graeme: That’s fi…

Me: NO! I mean. This is ridiculous. It’s the same amount going on to the same aircraft, you just want us to move it into a different container? I mean this doesn’t make any sense. This is just so ridi…

Graeme: Unzips bag to begin moving things from one bag to another. As soon as bag is unzipped, two water balloon rifles are exposed

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CIL: Ma’am…

Me: It’s fine, they’re plastic. Like, they don’t even have triggers, it’s just to…

CIL: Ma’am. We need to take you to security.

Me: WHAT THE ACTUAL F…

Graeme: Where are they? Do we need to have these cleared? What is the procedure? (annoying how level-headed and rational he is)

CIL: Please come with me. You’ll need to be escorted

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Before we could leave we had to fish through our bags to distribute those golden 4kgs. There is nothing glamorous about diging through your underwear with about 37 people standing behind you in a check-in queue. We had to go to the other side of the airport, the whole family and CIL in tow, with the 23kg bag containing the forbidden plastic water pumps shaped like guns. Very dangerous. Kids are by now all WTF YOU SAID WE WERE GOING ON A PLANE (fine, they did not actually say WTF) The bag needed to go through some sort of special clearance, departments were phoned, we had to wait a while and CIL was very happy to leave us there as somebody else’s problem for the day.

Eventually, they decided what I knew all along: THAT THEY’RE PLASTIC BALLOON PUMPS that can inflict absolutely no harm on another living being or aircraft containing passengers. Like, if someone was (let’s say) trying to hijack a plane with a neon green toy then y’all would be like “sit down”. I know you aren’t allowed to mention plane jackings in airports but like THIS IS MY BLOG AND I’LL SAY WHAT I WANT.

Satisfied and reassured that all our bags are safe and will arrive at the said destination at the same time, we were super eager to get to the boarding gate, maybe have a Wimpy  burger, buy a magazine (all parents going lololol right now) and relax before our flight (more lololol) Yay us! Before we even got to the boarding gate, while we were in the queue, it started again. This time from the Boarding Gate Lady (BGL)

BGL: Ma’am. Excuse me ma’am? Those aren’t allowed

Me: WHAT?!

She was pointing toward the boys’ backpacks. The sword handles sticking out in the centre – too large to be zipped up.

Me: No-no it’s fine, I called the airport and they said it’s cool. Really (trying to reassure her) it’s totally cool! (like really… I wasn’t worried at all) (thinking “shame”, maybe she’s new)

BGL: Ma’am those are not allowed through these gates

Me: Can I speak to your manager? This is unacceptable.

BGL: Step aside please ma’am

By now, the boys are inconsolable, we’re about to miss our flight and Graeme and I are having a full-on argument in the airport. On Christmas day. In front of everyone. The supervisor arrives.

BGL2: What seems to be the problem?

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By now, I am not wishing anyone a Merry Anything. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not even Christmas anymore. I mean, I am such an organized person. I had booked these flights in like October and all our Christmas shopping was done by mid-November. I LOVE administrative detail, being organized and having things go according to plan.

So I explained the whole thing to her, that I’d phoned, that I’d been told the swords are allowed, that well – we’re going to miss our flight and we really need to get going.

BGL2: Who did you speak to on the phone?

Me: I don’t know? The person who answered it.

BGL2: That person gave you the incorrect information

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Me: I’m sorry, but when you call THE AIRPORT which REPRESENTS… our airport and you ask an AIRPORT RELATED question, you sort of expect them to know how things work and give you the correct information, right?

BGL2: You were given the incorrect information. Those are not allowed on the plane. You can go to the security point and put them in with your main luggage. They might give you clearance.

Me: We were JUST there, our bags were already cleared. They’re probably already on the plane. I mean, I can’t do this anymore.

I usually don’t care a lot about these kinds of things, but these were my kids’ Christmas presents that I’d told them they can keep and that I’d already called to clarify and confirm because I was unsure. I mean, they were from Father Christmas, after all. Graeme was SO over it by now, but I was adamant that I was told this was allowed, and BGL2 is obviously wrong. And so it just got worse.

BGL2: Ma’am you’ll have to leave these here

Me: WAIT! I know. I’ll *phone* the airport right now here next to you and you can speak to them and they’ll just clarify everything. I’ll sort it all out right now! *presses redial*

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ASCA: Airport Company South Africa

Me: Hello, YES! Is this Airports Company South Africa?

ASCA: Yes (still doesn’t like being at work on Christmas Day) (basically this whole thing is all this guy’s fault) (not that I’m BLAMING him) (I am)

Me: I spoke to you earlier, about the swords – you know the toy swords? Did I speak to you?

ASCA: *pause* yes ma’am

Me: OKAY!!! So. I’m at the boarding gate. With the swords. And they won’t let me take them on the plane. Can you speak to the supervisor, please?

ASCA and BGL2 exchange words for at least… 7 seconds. BGL2 hangs up. Passes phone to me.

BGL2: Ma’am. You spoke to customer care. They aren’t authorised to make those decisions or to handle security queries. They’re just customer care

Me: That’s odd, cause I AM A CUSTOMER. Is there another number I should have called to get this kind of information?

Graeme: Tash seriously, we’ll leave the swords here, it’s fine. Is there a holding locker or something? Can we collect them on our way back?

We had to explain it all to the kids who by now had forgotten they even had swords they were so over it. I was over it. The airport was over us. Finally, all issues aside, we made our way through the boarding gates. I sighed with relief as nothing beeped when I went through the metal detector. No weapons in my handbag. Laptop all scanned through. I was READY to get to Durban. Christmas, round two was underway! Whoohoo!

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*beep beep beep beep beep*

Wait, what? No really… WHAT? Somewhere behind me, there was an issue with Graeme and the boys and security. No, really. I could see the Boarding Gate Scanner Guy (BGSG) freaking out a bit (whispering and making eye contact) as the boys’ backpacks went through that x-ray carousel thing.

BGSG: THERE ARE GUNS IN HERE

Me: You have got to be…

All other airport folks are now stepping back and staring at my family. Graeme looking at me as if I had just murdered someone. Or farted. The kind of fart that makes you not love someone anymore.

Me: I SWEAR I have nothing to do with… Graeme? they packed their own bags. Oh dear God why did we let them pack their own activity bags?

Noah’s bag contained: One pair of scissors. Two plastic guns. Another water gun. All of which got thrown into a big container next to the BGSG. Ben’s bag contained much of the same, another two pairs of scissors. Fair enough. Eventually, the boys got the backpacks back with wide eyes and renewed respect and fear for the airport system. Grays and I sort of stood around putting things back into bags, sheepish grins as the piled up queue and other parents just stood there watching us. Judging.

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And that was the first 2 hours of our holiday. It was obviously all forgotten as soon as they saw the plane and got lost in the excitement and wonder of flying. Have any of you had airport dramas like this? Of course you haven’t. Because you don’t pack guns and swords into your luggage, and nor do your children!

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<sidebar> Obviously I do not BLAME the airport for not allowing us to take these items on to the plane. It’s just a funny story. If you’re ever unsure of an item that you’re allowed to take on the plane, it’s best to phone ACSA and ask to be put through to the SECURITY department. The airports do a very good job. Please don’t ban us.

Unfortunately, I have to fly with the boys again this year. We’re planning a trip to Johannesburg  because I really want to take the boys to the Johannesburg Zoo. They both love animals and Benjamin wants to work as a Zoologist one day, so it’s going to be a huge treat/surprise for them. Check out TravelStart’s deals on > Cheap Flights From Johannesburg To Cape Town because there are so many deals on right now. I’m also including the infographic on how to fly with children, just so you can be more prepared this holiday season.

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Bathroom Scale

How much do you weigh?

It’s New Year’s Eve and this is the time of year when people decide to make changes. While this isn’t my personal resolution (this year)… I do get a bit dismayed when I talk about my own weight. It’s usually met with a casual eye-roll because people generally consider me to be thin and healthy. When thin people feel unhappy about their weight, there are whispers of “attention seeking” or even “eating disorder”. Right?

When I was a young girl, I was incredibly thin – naturally. I was also really tall (I’m 1.74) since I was in like, standard 5. I struggled with sport because I didn’t have much muscle and I struggled with boys because I was so much taller than all of them. Who wants to dance with the lanky girl who is at least three heads taller than them? None of them did. Being tall and thin disrupted a lot in my social, sporting & romantic development. I was insecure and awkward as a young girl, so my mom enrolled me in modelling classes. I learned how to walk on a ramp, turn (half turn, full turn back turn) and swing my bony hips to try gain confidence in my body. I entered pageants (gross) and much to my surprise even won a few. I never really enjoyed it, BUT it did help with my confidence to have someone other than my parents tell me that I was pretty.

<Side bar> I don’t support the pageant industry in any way at all. Let’s pin women up against each other to compete on their looks, education and bodies? What the hell you guys!!

When I got to high school, I remember my guy friends laughing at me in my new uniform. I looked ridiculous in the navy pencil skirt because I had no hips, no thighs and no calves. I drowned in the starchy fabric. There was this guy at our school who sold fudge for R2 a square. I asked my mom for pocket money every day and made that year my sole purpose to gain weight. I ate up to two chicken & mushroom King Pies every day and bought at least 4 squares of fudge every day. When I got home from school, I towered bread and cheese into the microwave and had extra helpings of food at dinner. It took about two years of this and my standard 8 I finally felt more like a woman. I had hips and a bum, but my health had plummeted and I’d developed acne from the bad diet and hormones. By standard 9, I stopped doing sport completely. Eventually, I had little fat rolls and was wearing a size 36 pants. Great job, Natasha

By matric, I was dieting to look better (and haha – thinner) for my first year at university. Shrinking my stomach back to its natural form and trying to backtrack those past 5 years of damage was a nightmare. I kept a journal of what I ate and how much I weighed just to try to make sense of everything. At varsity, I had two waitressing jobs and was living in a student res with a breakfast service. I didn’t grow up eating breakfast because in high school I was literally always late for school and had to run the few blocks to get there on time. With all this new exercise (hello have you waitressed), a breakfast routine and more activity (money being spent on apple sours instead of actual food): I plummeted to 52 kg and stopped getting my period. At my ‘natural’ weight at the beginning of high school, I was 58 kg. By matric I was 65kg. I had lost 13kg in the space of months and my body was panicking. I remember I got a bit furry like… all these fine white hairs sprung out all over my arms and I was like…. well this is weird.

When I moved back home, I filled back up to about 60kg and maintained this naturally and effortlessly for the next few years. Whenever I felt my jeans get tight, I would skip dinner for a while until it evened out again. When I was about 23 and living and cooking alone, I finally found the foods and diet that I really enjoyed and was truly healthy for the first time in my life. I thrived on salads, seafood and vegetables. All I ever wanted was a hearty, loaded salad, sushi and vegetable stews or soups. I felt incredible, I was healthy and my weight stayed steady.

When I was pregnant with Noah, I gained a beautiful 17kg (including him, amniotic fluid etc) so my body gained about 10. When I was expecting him, I craved cheese curls, cheese russians and kit kats and loved every second of it. As soon as he was born, I craved summery, crunchy salads and the weight shed like it never happened. I had exactly the same experience with Ben’s pregnancy, but the weight took about a year to go.

When I turned 30, the boys were toddlers. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but little kids are not really into salad. Dinners turned in to pizzas, macaroni cheese and fish fingers. The house was permanently stocked with boudoir biscuits and nesquick. I started drinking more often (hello – toddlers) and became addicted to sugary red bull. Within 2 years, I reached my highest ever weight of 75kg.

Understand that I am naturally about 60kg. That’s when I’m eating healthy food, 3 meals a day, doing exercise with treats and drinks in between. When I’m NORMAL.

I signed up for a half marathon, joined a gym, did a juicing fast & went back to my old (normal) eating habits. It took me about 1.5 years to lose 15kg and I kept it off. The only thing that I’ve ever done to re-set my body and to lose weight is: To switch to salads, running, more water and skipping dinner now and then. Because I have always known 60kg to be my body’s normal weight, I get really stressed when I go too far beyond this number because it means that something is wrong. It means that I’m not healthy or fit and that I’m not taking care of myself. Because I’ve always associated my weight to my happiness and aspects of my personal health – it’s become important to me. To me, it means “HEALTHY” – inside and out. When I say that I want or ‘need’ to lose weight… what I am really saying is that I want to be my normal and happy.

Right now, I’m at 65 and when I say that I need to lose weight – it is not what people think. I don’t think that I’m overweight at all. I don’t feel bad about my body and I don’t think I’m fat. I just know that I need to eat more fruit and vegetables and that I need to start running more… and not eating so late at night. Throughout the years, people have asked me what I do to lose weight and through years of practice (and discoveries I made by accident), I follow the following routine. Obviously, I am not a nutritionist or dietician and you need to find what works for YOUR body, but for those who asked:

When I’m eating healthily to lose weight I:

  1. Have coffee & boiled eggs or apple /fruit for breakfast. Sometimes both.
  2. Have a tuna salad or tray of roast veg & cottage cheese for lunch
  3. Drink loads of water
  4. Snack on coffee and fruit or a nutribullet (mixed fruit) or popcorn when I’m hungry – usually at about 4pm
  5. I don’t eat dinner – not after 8pm anyway. If I do eat something at night, it’s a solid protein like  boiled eggs, biltong or a piece of fruit. Another favourite is carrots dipped in humus.
  6. I take Jack for a walk / run every single day. Not too far. Like a 30 – 40 minute walk.

That’s my guide to my personal comfort zone with my weight. I switched back to this lifestyle a few weeks ago. I call it my re-set. I definitely don’t have any kind of ‘food issues’ but I neglected, damaged and mistreated my body for so long and it took me so many years to find a comfortable weight that makes me feel good about myself and nourishes my body.

What do you guys do when your jeans get a bit tight? Please share your little tips in the comment section for all the other readers who might be interested. I’ve heard of people drinking apple cider vinegar!? Anyway… I hope that you all have a merry, festive and SAFE new year’s eve tonight.

<Side Bar> I’ve decided not to include pictures in this post. I don’t care what my body looks like in a bikini. I care about how healthy and strong I am.

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New blog, old blog

For a long time (about a year) I avoided saying anything personal on the internet, even paying attention to captions on photographs – dare they be too emotional or revealing.

While I realise that there are boundaries to what we share online, I found that both my writing and confidence had dried up. I love writing. I love it more than I enjoy doing anything else. Last week, I decluttered my bedroom and found my old journals. Diaries that I’d lovingly written and kept since 1998. I paged and cringed and giggled through them and my heart burned to write again. To translate my heart within the framework of words again. To whisper those tiny secrets to paper again.

So I bought a journal, I opened this blog again… and I’ve decided to set boundaries. There are so many brilliant writers/bloggers in South Africa and beyond. Our favourite posts are never really the travel ones, or the recipes and how-to lists. My favourite bloggers are the ones who share their feelings and experiences with me. The ones who make me laugh with their candid, unapologetic honesty. That’s  what I want to read. That’s what I want to write about.

Both my children can read now, and both have intermittent access to the internet. While it’s controlled access, I can’t guarantee that they won’t ever google me (or themselves) and find my blog. There are so many letters on here that I’ve written to them and sung their praises. I fear their tiny egos would never recover, so let’s hope that they don’t find them just yet. Either way –

I would never (and have never) written about my children’s private lives. I would never write anything negative about their dad (I save this information for lengthy whatsapps to him personally, when he annoys me). I would never write about anything that my kids don’t know about or don’t fully understand. It would feel like a form of betrayal, so I’m just not comfortable with it.

I would never write about anything that I don’t completely understand. Like… anything to do with geography, the solar system, bitcoin… or love.

But I’m here to share stories. Real ones. I’m here to talk about the issues that we all grapple with. I’m not an expert (on literally anything) but I’d like to talk about how I do, feel and see things – personally. So anyway… Let’s chat.

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Thankful

It’s been my toughest year yet. Health scares, demanding school schedules, loss, business re-structuring and an overall feeling of “underwhelm” in every department. I exercised less, ate more, drank more and spent far too much time indoors. I withdrew from friends, spent less time with my family and was in an unhealthy relationship with myself – which made me more susceptible to a series (or rather, a full-length feature) of much less than I ever deserved.

I’ve emptied my pockets, studied their contents and I genuinely feel ready for 2018. In the spirit of the new year, I wanted to talk about being thankful.

Be thankful for every single person who cares about you. Be thankful for your sense of self and the relationship that you have with yourself. Never take your individuality for granted. At the end of the day, you really are all that you have, and if you lose yourself: everything around you will fall apart. Nurture, compliment, embrace, improve and appreciate yourself as a person… every day.

Be thankful for your body. I had a few procedures done this year when my gynae suspected that I had cervical cancer. Listen, nothing levels you like thinking that your time could be cut short. Ladies: Go for those checkups. Your GP can do a pap smear or test you for HPV (a type of virus that causes cervical cancer) Woman up. Get your breasts checked, lose that weight if it’s affecting your health. Exercise, walk, run, jump. Eat good foods that nourish you. Be. thankful. for. your. body.

Be thankful for your mind. Feed it more information. Study further, learn more, think and read more. Question everything. I got into such a mental comfort zone this year and I honestly feel that I didn’t grow or learn anything new – intellectually or physically. I bought myself a new book and asked for paints and brushes for Christmas. I want to study different writing styles, learn from new authors, listen to new stories. I have a huge passion for art and instead of admiring other people’s work, I want to create something of my own. Even if it’s awful.

Next year I’m going in a few different directions because I’m disappointed in 2017. While so many great things happened, I feel like I didn’t develop enough as a person. That I wasn’t present and didn’t take care of myself. Like I didn’t really achieve anything that I’m proud of. Maybe it’s good to have a ‘gap’ year to just live… But I’m rested, re-set and ready to be so much more in 2018, but this time – with gratitude.

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Lately

I’m going to skip the whole “I haven’t blogged for so long because I’ve been busy” intro because *yawn* and because well, we’re all busy. We glorify it like it’s an achievement, but being busy really sucks. People throw all their savings at expensive holidays to get the hell away from being busy, so I won’t bore you with the details on why I’ve been too ‘busy’ to blog. I’ve still been writing though. I wrote this huge heartfelt post on my innermost self-exploration and emailed it to like five people instead.

I made a huge decision this year. See, last year I went on this gigantic mission with my business. I wanted to feed and grow it like something out of “Little Shop of Horrors” and once it was all set up, I looked at it and realised that it wasn’t what I wanted at all. Taking four days to reply to emails, feeling like we were ‘delivering’ instead of achieving. I felt like a waitress with seven tables and everyone sat down at once and it was awful. That’s not what I want. While I have a small group of people that assist where I’m absolutely unable to, I want to stay the face and project manager of my own company, you know? I want to maintain control and know exactly what is going on at every minute. I don’t want to delegate, I want to DO. So the first part of this year was greatly dedicated to re-shaping a lot of what I’d formed in to the wrong mould. And it’s been great. I’ve also been much more selective with our clients and ensuring that we’re 100% passionate about absolutely everything that we’re doing. What a huge difference that’s made for general morale… But enough shop talk.

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My children are by far the most amazing and incredible thing that’s ever happened to me. I know that you’re supposed to love your children, but I really LIKE them, you know? Like I sit for hours and just talk nonsense with them. I have to give you a little run-down on their current personalities because I’m just besotted.

Noah plays the piano and had his first music concert. I couldn’t get over how brave he was on stage. How confident he is in his ability and how comfortable he is with himself. Watching him laugh and joke with his classmates in the seats – I literally could not take my eyes off of him the entire time. He played so beautifully and was so proud of himself. He loves reading and languages and has never been overly interested in television. He LOVES tech things though, like to a borderline OCD level. I got a humidifier and it was like the highlight of his month trying to figure out how it works, what purpose it serves and the engineering behind all of it. Little things that we all walk past… like he would sit for 20 minutes and try figure out what else our oil heater can do. Which settings it has. It blew his MIND when he figured out that it had a timer. He’s just like that… he loves figuring things out. One day when we drove through that tunnel (you know the one that goes through a mountain – I think it’s on the way to Robertson or something) he said “When I grow up I want to be an engineer so I can make tunnels and bridges that are safe for people” and I swear. to. God he’s going to. I know that he’s going to end up doing something in that field, although it might switch to medicine when he’s older. I know he’ll love knowing how a body works and he’ll like helping people. He’ll definitely have a career with some sort of reward attached to it. Noah is also so social and funny and man, he’s just so smart. I know that we all think (know) that our kids are smart, but his teachers begged us to send him to be assessed when he was five and man alive – he really is a tiny child genius. When they assess kids, they do this personality test too (the whole thing takes like two full days) and Noah has what she called the ‘head boy’ factor. Meaning that he has strengths in every department – emotional, intellectual, rational, physical and social. He’s a very lucky kid.

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Sometimes he says the most incredible things like the other day he asked me if I thought that a particular girl at his school is “the one” for him. I was like well my boy, I don’t know…. ??? He doesn’t believe in Father Christmas because “It doesn’t make sense – how can one person be at the same place at the same time every year etc” when I suggested elves, he straight-up laughed at me. Like I was the child. Anyway, I’ve sworn him to secrecy to protect his brother’s innocence. But man… he says the craziest things. The other night he said he loves me, and I bragged: “I love you MORE!” and he replied “I love you more than space-time continuum” and I had to google that really fast. Like hello, please can you be eight years old and not twelve? He is such a bright, happy boy. He’s also super in to origami right now and spends hours practicing his folds. I can’t wait for him to read all of this one day. Noah, I’m so proud of you x

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BENJAMIN. Well look, if he doesn’t end up being a vet, archaeologist, zoologist or paleontologist then I will be shook. Bunny Banana is obsessed with animals. Noah goes to the library and brings back story or joke books, and Ben puts a new ‘information’ book on my lap every week. “Information books on mammals. Fossils. Dinosaurs. He has probably brought home every educational mammal book that poor library has. His bedtime story is a fact book on animals. He has always been like this, and now that he’s started reading and can scan titles – it’s even worse. We went to a bookshop recently and he asked the store person: “Bring me ALL the information books on animals” and sat on the (kids area) floor while this poor guy loaded books in from other sections. Ben sat there for a good hour trying to soak up as much information as he could. He also really loves math, so I buy him these cool workbooks so he can do sums.

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Ben loves television. Ben loves television probably (definitely) more than he loves me. He watches documentaries about earth and (yes) animals. He watches cartoons that give information about different species. When you talk to Ben, he’ll rattle on and on about this habitat and that ecosystem. His language ability is honestly profound. I took him to the UCT clinic for his asthma a while ago, and this retired professor handled his consultation. Within five minutes, the professor (sincerely) asked if he could use Benjamin as a speaker at his next conference and could not believe how well articulated he is for his age. He wanted me to get Buns tested, but you know what… I don’t want to. I just want the boys to be kids and like dinosaurs and be engrossed by our household appliances.

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Ben is my baby. Noah thrives on independence. In the mornings, he makes his own toast, lets Jack out, makes my coffee, pours himself a bath, gets himself ready and reads a book and has had like, an entire life before Ben and I have even woken up. Bunny still asks me to pour him some juice and he’s so soft and caring. Honestly – Ben is the most caring person you’ve ever met in your life. He also has an incredibly innocent and beautifully naive quality about him that makes you fall in love with him at once. While Noah is super social and popular, Ben is the sweetest little loner. He’s not lonely, it’s just that he’s so fulfilled in his own company. He has like, one close friend at school but other than that, Ben lives completely in his own little world with animals, books, maths and television. As I watch his reading improve, I get more and more excited for him. A whole new world is going to be available to him, and I can just picture him sitting in his room for hours, soaking up information.

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I honestly can’t get enough of those two or their love for each other. Their bond is the most beautiful, precious thing and it would break your heart if you ever saw it. Really, I’m so grateful that I get to watch them grow up. There is nothing sweeter.

There’s so much more to talk about, and I’ll chat more again soon. I want to write a whole lot more again – about everything that’s been going on. I also want to write about the places we’ve been visiting and I want to talk about some serious stuff, but more on that next time. PS It feels really good to write again!

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Hello

There are a lot of things that I haven’t made time for lately. What stands out the most for me is that my house looks like the inside of a handbag, I’m not sleeping a lot and I have hundreds of unanswered work emails and texts from friends who I love so much. I feel like I am behind on *actually* everything. But I’m happy.

Noah can READ MUSIC, I mean how special is that. He can play the piano and it makes me want to cry. I am so, so proud of him. I want to write an entire entry JUST on that. I have so much to say and it needs to come out in no particular format, otherwise I’ll never be able to write again.

I have this recurring dream that I have another baby. There is nothing more boring than hearing about other people’s dreams (I know) but… In this dream: I keep forgetting that I have a baby. Like, “I can’t remember if I have a baby or not- can anyone confirm?” In this dream there’s always a really bad thing that happens like I don’t know – a natural disaster or something. And I leave town but forget to take the baby. Then I call a few friends and ask if they have my baby… and then I wake up. I sleep next to the boys every night (co-sleeping is for the mother, I assure you) so then I just like, pull them toward me and inhale their smell. It’s the best feeling. It’s the worst feeling.

They’re incredible children. Every now and then Graeme and I text each other like “How damn cool are the boys?” I have no idea how they got so incredibly smart. Kind. Handsome. Hilarious. We’re supposed to love our children, but man I just really LIKE them – you know? They tell these really funny jokes and do magic tricks and watch documentaries and play the piano and care about everything so. much. Are all kids this cool? Probably not.

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My computer keeps crashing and I’ve been having issues with my emails which has made me want to jump out of a window for actual real. I got *another* new computer but I don’t have the patience to transfer all my files to the new one, or I get half way then give up because I need that ONE file on the OTHER computer and then just revert back and hope that nothing crashes. This (old) computer is tragically slow and won’t even let me edit images. It’s affected my blog, my job… my mental health.

Tonight I chucked my dressing table out of my room and replaced it with a desk. I figure that I enjoy writing in my bedroom more than anywhere else, so maybe this will encourage some late night motivation.

I have somebody to love, which I appreciate more than I probably ever have before. I get to hang out with someone who I learn from and who makes me laugh until I cry… all the time. I feel like that needs a separate post too, but I’m an incredibly lucky girl to feel even half this happy.

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Anyway, I just thought I’d say hi. I feel like I don’t know what’s going on in the world right now. I feel like I’ve lost myself somewhere between everything. I look at pictures of myself from a year ago and don’t recognise that girl at all. This past year has changed me. I feel like I don’t do anything that I enjoy anymore and I don’t know why. I am like number 7 on the list of my own life? Why? I’m stepping back a bit and trying to figure a few things out. Trying to open a conversation with myself, but who has time to think anyway?

Nobody.

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2017

I’m super ready for 2017. It’s such a cliche to feel this motivated at the beginning of the year, but I feel so fired up. Last year was all about new beginnings and setting things up for growth. Laying down the groundwork and foundations to keep building. Go taller.

I bought this house that still needs so much work, but it’s here. This year I’ll be re-doing much of the kitchen, sorting out the garden, putting in the vegetable patches and creating all the living walls. I want to plaster and paint the exterior walls too, which is going to be such an expensive project, but we’ll see if I can get it done. I learned a lot about money and investments last year, and the goal is to get this house to a point where a rental would cover the bond. It’s a far reach, but totally attainable. I think we’d only want to live here for another year before moving on to the next property. The boys (and Jack) definitely need more space so that they can grow too.

We set up the new classroom for our training facilities and we’ve signed four new, exciting clients that we’re kicking off in 2017. I love watching these projects take shape and come to life. We hired another team member and there’s another one coming in January. Delegating has always been my downfall, but with the right tools and people in place – I’m slowly learning to let go and not hold things back. Letting go has also created all this new time to get more creative and passionate about the day to day dealings, instead of shoving work down the production line.

Benjamin is starting grade ONE. He’s going to learn to read and write this year, and I’m so excited for him. He’s starting guitar lessons, and Noah is doing piano. The house is about to come alive with music and even more books and activity, which I’m really looking forward to. Watching my boys grow and learn makes me happier than anything else ever could. Motherhood is truly rewarding, exciting and wonderful.

With a bit more free time, I’m more dedicated than ever to my blog. I’ve missed writing here, and sharing my thoughts, experiences and stories. I opened up boxes of my old journals and diaries the other day – where I’d documented my life since I was twelve years old. Someone said that I’m so lucky to have that: all my thoughts, experiences and memories to keep forever. I want to keep remembering. I also feel that my writing is quite rusty and I need to keep practicing to keep my own little voice alive. I reached out on twitter and asked what you guys want to read more about, and it seems like you’re mostly interested in travel, food, lifestyle and personal stories.

I got the most beautiful email from a reader last week, and she said “Finding out about your blog might have been the best new year ‘gift’ for me. This morning my friend phoned me, and we talked. I was crying and then.. then she thought about you. She started telling me about your story and I felt hope.. hard to describe the feeling, maybe relief. I asked her for the link and immediately, I looked at your story. “I can relate”, I thought. There is hope, there is another chance for me. I felt ‘I CAN do this’.”

Receiving emails like this is what makes blogging so important to me. Writing about the harder times is difficult and vulnerable but we’re all just people, going through our own struggles. Fighting with our partners, losing friends, struggling at work, feeling down. Eating too much, eating too little. Dealing with our own insecurities and fears. Obstacles. Sometimes there’s so much going on that I can’t share on social media, but only to protect the privacy of those close to me. A lot has been going on, but it’s getting better now. Slowly.

Life is beautiful, and fragile. People are strong. We’re all so capable and fierce, even at our worst. I want to see us all try harder in 2017.

In 2016 I met a man who changed the way that I see a lot of things. Someone older and (I hope he never reads this) much wiser and experienced. He motivates me, makes me laugh until I cry and he loves me. Having someone so supportive and fun-loving at my side has driven me even more. Driven me mad at times : ) but more on that in another post.

I feel like I learned a lot in 2016 and I know that many of you feel the same. Some of you have big things heading your way, like new life, babies and marriages. New jobs and businesses. Opportunities, new cities – new homes. More travel. New love. Apparently (according to numerology) this year marks the start of a new cycle, and is the ideal year to make changes and go for everything you’ve ever been afraid of.

Happy 2017 to all of us. Let’s do this!

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2016.

I was scrolling through my Instagram last night and couldn’t believe how much has happened this year, and how much everything has changed. And I mean everything. Let’s get real for a minute, because I want to be able to read this again in a year’s time and really remember how this year felt.

In 2016, I started my first year as a single woman. I wanted to say “single mother” but I don’t feel that way at all. Graeme is a great, involved dad who sees them almost half of their time. What I really struggled with was NOT seeing them that much anymore. The first few months, I spent a lot of time at home. I threw myself in to work, which I love. I didn’t want to socialise and spent a few weekends in KZN, visiting my dad and childhood friends. I also watched the entire Sex and the City series from scratch. Then all the movies. Obviously.

I hadn’t dated since 2007. It was all so… weird. I started a life with someone at 23. The adjustment was difficult, but not awful. I missed the familiarity of being around someone who knew me, to be honest. I’m so proud and surprised at how unscathed the boys were by any of it. Noah slotted in to ‘man of the house’ mode and helps me so much. In the mornings, he gets up before anyone else and lets Jack out for his morning tinkle. Those tiny little things make such a huge difference around the house, and he loves any kind of responsibility.

I bought a house. I renovated a house. I found somewhere safe and happy for my boys to live and play and we made it a home – together. We danced in the lounge, we unpacked boxes and we ate a LOT of take-aways. On nights alone, I drank a lot of wine. We moved in to our new home on 1 July and that Winter was pretty tough.

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We had to say goodbye to our beautiful Daisy. Although we tried, our new garden is not equipped for two ‘farm’ dogs. She is a great guard dog, but her barking did not sit well with our neighbours – no matter what we tried. She is with my uncle in Durbanville and has become a friend to their Collie. She’ll always be in our lives and on family outings and camping trips, but we miss her so much. Every day. Losing Daisy was a hard blow on all of us.

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I got really good at filling my time and keeping busy. I tried dating and was pretty awful at it. I know that’s true because I watched a LOT of Sex and The City. I met the most incredible people this year. Kind, wonderful, driven and good hearted men. I also met trash. I’ll write about it eventually. It will have a catchy header like “The 3 Men I Dated in 2016” because I’ve learned that there are exactly 3 in every dating / MAN category. Again – so much educational value in Sex and The City.

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I met someone who is my equal in every way and who I learn so much from. Someone who scared the rabbits out of me. Someone who really loves me. I’m a really happy, lucky girl.

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I lost friends and made friends. I lost a best friend, which hurts a woman’s heart more than any man ever could – am I right? I respected my own individuality, because nobody should ever begrudge another for not conforming to their views or lifestyle. We can’t change or shape ourselves around other people’s expectations, and we need to accept and forgive each other for our flaws and faults. I learned so much about forgiveness this year, and what a gracious act it is. It’s one of the best and kindest gifts that you can give to someone.

2016 told me that I am a lot stronger than I thought I was. And that I don’t really care about anything that does not affect me directly. Some people call it privilege, I call it prioritising. I am not going to sit and argue feminism with you for 6 hours on social media when I could be working on a pitch, baking with my kids, running with Jack or drinking bubbly with my wonderful boyfriend. It’s not that I don’t care about women’s rights, it’s just that there is so. little. time. that I’ve learned to direct mine toward my priorities: The people who I love and who need me.

This year I took major steps in my business to give it room to grow. We’ve opened a classroom / training facility which is walking distance to my house. It’s such a pleasure to walk a few steps to the office every day – I really have landed with my bum in the butter here.

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I’ve taken a few knocks, made awful mistakes and really centered my emotions. I was all over the place up until about two months ago. Everything affected me. I found myself wanting to numb my heart with food, series, books, booze – any form of escapism that you could think of. I felt… lost this year. I have the most incredible friends who let me vent, lash out, act weird, be crazy and annoy them for like 10 months straight. A further shout-out to my long-suffering mother who could probably publish novels from our whatsapp threads. I appreciate and love my friends more than I could ever articulate or limit within the framework of words. You are truly beautiful people. I’m going to be a better friend in 2017.

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We ‘solved’ Ben’s asthma. After years of struggling with his tiny lungs, an allergy test saved the day. Also thousands of rands worth of special bedding, sheets, covers, cushions and mattress protectors because our little Bunny Banana is allergic to dust mites. It’s been such a relief to watch him grow stronger every week.

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Noah blew us all away this year with his passion for school, his new friendships and dedication to his schoolwork. He loves school more than anything else, and it loves him.

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That’s a wrap. I’m doing my Xmas shopping today and making the house FESTIVE for my boys who spent way too many evenings watching me work. I can’t wait to just be with them all day without any distractions. I’ll be a better mother in 2017. I’m going to be better at everything. Merry Christmas friends. I hope you have the most beautiful time with everyone who loves you.

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The Simple Things

Country Road asked me to showcase my own version of “The Simple Things” in life. Amongst all the chaos of work, school, personal projects and deadlines… What I love doing most is dedicating full, undivided time to Noah and Benjamin. We often do little tea parties where we’ll just hang out and enjoy each other’s company. Time without homework, chores and rules. I’ll make a big pot of tea and get us some delicious treats and sometimes we’ll play UNO or watch a great family movie or something and relax together for hours.

It’s sad how much kids have to do these days, from such a young age. Noah is in grade 1 and hates Mondays already. On that day they have mini sport, library and two 2 breaks. It hurts your heart to see how quickly they get thrown in to so much. They have 2 extra murals a week and swimming is coming back now too. It’s so important to me that they just get to relax with me, and forget about all the expectations that school already places on them.

So yesterday afternoon I fetched them earlier from school. I got to watch a bit of their drama lesson and laughed at their little performances. We had a long talk on the drive home and instead of hours of homework and routine, I popped by a local bakery, picked up some treats and let them have cupcakes and tea for dinner. I let them use mommy’s ‘fancy’ crockery (that I recently shopped at Country Road) which always makes them feel super special and grown up. Here are some pictures of my gorgeous boys, who I love more than anything else in this world. Looking at these photos made me stop and realise just how quickly they’re growing up too. It’s bittersweet, but beautiful. This is us at home, doing the simple things.

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screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-9-49-12-pmCountry Road let me select a few items from their store for our home to enjoy. I chose a dining set of their gorgeous white, grey and pink plates with matching cups. The wooden tray pictured above is also from them, as are the boys’ outfits. There are a few other items which I’ll share in my next post, when we talk bubble baths and lemonade stands. You can shop Country Road’s dining section here.

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People.

I’ve been living a lot of life these past few months and it’s been pretty great, to be honest. For a few years I kept to myself and focused on family, work, and a handful of friends. While these are all great things to have, I hadn’t realised how ‘safe’ everything was. I got gridlocked in to routine and managing other people’s lives. This is the great ballad for every mother, I realise.

When I did go out, I would always socialise with the same people. Go to the same places. Order the same things. Talk about the same topics. There was maybe 2 years of this and I’d never felt as ordinary. Last year I threw myself at everything that had ever frightened me, and it’s changed my life. The people I’ve met, the emotions I’ve felt – whether exhilarating or excruciating, it’s all changed me. I am terrified of boredom. Or being boring. For a long time, I felt so isolated by my own bangups, because there was no frame of reference. There was nobody new to compare bumps and bruises with. There were no new stories to hear.

September marks one year since I ventured to Paris alone, almost to the day. I’ll never forget getting wine-drunk on a sidewalk cafe with a girl I’d never met. She was about to go home to break up with her boyfriend of 7 years and we spoke about love for hours. The previous night I was discussing depression and happiness with bar staff at a cafe, where I’d ordered a take away but stayed for hours picking on a cheese burger and devouring french champagne. Taking photos of strangers for hours at the Eiffel Tower and seeing how much they appreciated the offer. Trying to tune in to the thoughts of people in the metro as the tunnel lights flashed across their distant looking faces. Crying on my own for hours in the station because I’d missed a destination that was so important to me. Feeling so incredibly alone and accomplished at the same time.

That bred courage.

I’ve been reflecting back on all the people I’ve met since then. Since January. Sometimes when I think about it for long enough, I get really sad. I wonder what it would have been like if I’d stayed where I was and never got to connect with these people from all over the world and right here at home. I met incredibly rich, successful people who are desperately unhappy – and alone. I met people who have enormous dreams and a passion so contagious that you felt special just sitting next to them. I met people who have problems that aren’t their fault. Who medicate themselves daily to feel alive at all. I met someone who felt like everything was on repeat, every day and he didn’t know how to stop it or wake up from it. I met a girl who pushed anyone away who ever criticized or disagreed with her. I met people to were addicted to escapism, not drugs. I met a boy who played pretend, with the loudest laugh and the biggest smile. He could floor you with his charm, but hidden behind that roar is a very frightened person who never takes chances. I met dreamers and chasers, players and lovers. And I don’t want it to stop. Even if it hurts.

Each person has taught me a tiny little baby thing. It really is true that if we all emptied our pockets, and put all our problems on the table – we’d all grab our own back. It’s true that life won’t give you what you can’t handle as long as you step up. You need to take chances to change your life, and even though I’ve been totally scorched and disappointed by people in the past year – I’ve learned who I don’t want to be or become. I’ve felt proud of myself for being able to handle punches. I’ve spoken about things that made me uncomfortable. I’ve hurt people. I’ve been hurt. I’ve banished barrels of insecurities because even the most beautiful women doubt themselves. The most poised are drowning in false pride. The loudest men are often the most afraid, the richest are actually poor and the bravest are the most accomplished. I’ve met people who are ill with mediocracy but completely happy. I don’t think that we’re supposed to be ‘happy’ or content. There should always be a new place or person to learn from. You should always have something that keeps you up at night, something that haunts you. Excites you.

There’s this movie on Diane Arbus’ life story that I love so much. She was a phenomenal photographer, and Nicole Kidman plays her in the adaption called “Fur”. As a photograher, she liked to capture uncomfortable, strange or interesting people. At the end of the movie, once she starts becoming this celebrated photographer… she finds her first subject, sits next to them on this park bench and says “Tell me a secret”

Image: Diane Arbus, New York Magazine

Image: Diane Arbus, New York Magazine

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